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There is no denying, that Universal's #DarkUniverse is off to a bit off a rocky start, while #AlexKurtzman's #TheMummy smells almost as ripe as its bandaged villainess. At least you can't say that people aren't talking about Kurtzman's box office blunder, and barely a headline goes by without some reference to this resurrection of the franchise.
However, tanking at the box office and dubbed as "barely a film" by some critics, The Mummy's painful demise could signal even more unraveling for the Dark Universe before it has even begun. So what is to blame? Wrong timing, a tired premise, or even its lead star? Now, the knife gets twisted a little further, because it sounds like someone is pointing the finger #TomCruise as the one to blame for all of this — go figure.
While the pint-sized actor may have found his niche in the ongoing Mission: Impossible films, rehashing Ethan Hunt for The Mummy as US military officer Nick Morton just didn't have the same spark. Chewing the CGI scenery, it isn't as fun when Cruise doesn't have the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, or Ving Rhames alongside a self-destructing mission. However, Cruise's acting aside, it sounds like he had more of a part to play in The Mummy's failure then we first thought. Well, that's according to an anonymous Variety Source.
According to the article, Cruise had “nearly complete creative oversight," over the film, and it gets a lot worse from there. Cruise was reportedly unhappy with the original script and commissioned Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman to tinker under the hood. With McQuarrie working with Cruise on the Impossible films, it is no surprise that a redraft suddenly featured a lot more of Nick Morton:
"His writers beefed up his part. In the original script, Morton and the Mummy (played by Sofia Boutella) had nearly equal screen time. The writers also added a twist that saw Cruise’s character become possessed, to give him more of a dramatic arc. Even though Universal executives weren’t thrilled about the story — which feels disjointed and includes Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll — they went along with Cruise’s vision."
Not just content with now having the starring role and a substantial paycheck, Cruise wanted to dabble in being a director too. The source claims that Kurtzman was struggling with the grand scale of the production and that Cruise took over day by day:
"In the wake of The Mummy’s failure, the decision to tap such an untested director on a sprawling action-adventure seems to have been foolhardy...As Alex Kurtzman struggled to adjust to scope of the project, it felt more like Cruise was the real director, often dictating the major action sequences and micro-managing the production, according to sources."
A Universe Of Problems
Perhaps it all has something to do with Cruise's 10-minute improvised speech at the premiere, where he said “movies aren’t made by single people. It’s a team effort.” Well, there is no "I" in team, but if you are Cruise, it sounds like there is a "me" if you look hard enough.
While Mission: Impossible 6 is well underway and The Mummy hopes to just be a blip on Cruise's radar, you only have to look at the tattered Hollywood star system to see times are changing. Huge stars like Johnny Depp and Will Smith have fallen into troubled waters recently, so simply relying on us liking Nick Morton because it was Tom Cruise was a risk that didn't pay off. Variety reached out to Universal for a statement, who came out from hiding in the catacombs of shame to release the following:
"Tom approaches every project with a level of commitment and dedication that is unmatched by most working in our business today. He has been a true partner and creative collaborator, and his goal with any project he works on is to provide audiences with a truly cinematic moviegoing experience."
Sadly, it is all a case of too little too late. With the aforementioned Depp now attached to the Dark Universe, alongside Javier Bardem and rumored stars like Angelina Jolie, The Mummy is a tough lesson to learn. Even in the booming superhero genre, you can't just throw celebrity status at a production to save a series like they used to. As the monsters crawl out from their various castles, swamps, and coffins, the Dark Universe will need a Frankenstein miracle to reignite our hopes for the monster mash.